Forum:How to overcome the imposter syndrome in bioinformatics?
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6 months ago
sil_bioinfo ▴ 50

Hello,

I think I have imposter syndrome and I don't know how to get rid of it. I need advice from people who went through the same thing and managed to get out of it, how did you do it?

I started in the bioinformatics field recently, and I'm just starting to work with it. I love learning new things, but for every new thing I learn, especially in this field, I have twice as many doubts and in the end, I feel like I will never be able to know everything I need to be "good" in this field...

Any advice please?

Thank you in advance!

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thank you for the link!

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6 months ago

When I frist decided that my future probably lay in bioinformatics, rather than lab biology, I had the same worry. I had done some bits and pieces of bioinformatics during my PhD and first PostDoc, but felt that I was just either blindly following tutorials without really understand what I was doing, putting default parameters into everything, and everything else I was just making up as I went, with no idea if it was right or not.

So I decided to take a three year postdoctoral training course in bioinformatics at Oxford University. The best lesson I learnt during that time is that everyone, even the most experienced people, are make most stuff up as they go most of the time. Very occassionally someone does know enough about something, or the theory behind something, to "do it right". Ocassionally these people might tell you are doing it suboptimally - or they write a paper pointing out that everyone in the field is doing it suboptimally, thats fine, you just get used to going back and refining things.

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but felt that I was just either blindly following tutorials without really understand what I was doing

I feel so identified with this phrase, especially at the beginning, when I was starting out. Now that I'm starting to work on this field, I'm seeing little by little how to apply everything I've learned in tutorials and understanding little by little what I'm doing when I use some R packages, python,... I guess this feeling is more normal than I thought, especially when going from the theoretical stage (master's degree, tutorials,...) to starting to work on it and applying what I have learnt.

Thank you so much for your words!!

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6 months ago
GenoMax 144k

I feel like I will never be able to know everything

That is 100% correct. No one can claim to know "everything" about any field and bioinformatics is no exception. Bioinformatics is a relatively new field and some of us started practicing without a formal license many moons ago (when even the name "bioinformatics" did not exist). Even then there are many aspects of bioinformatics that are beyond reach other than a cursory understanding of what is happening. So don't feel bad if you just started in the field.

I need to be "good" in this field...

As long as that is a personal expectation you will be fine. If you are expecting others to say that to you then you may be in for disappointment. Enjoy the work you are doing because as we all know much of the work is wrangling the data into right format for the next step in analysis.

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Hi, thank you so much for your words. When I say

I need to be good in this field

I mean I think to myself. For example, when I apply for a job in bioinformatics, I always think, I will never be good enough for that job, and I am also afraid that I will not be able to meet the expectations that the boss wants even if I meet the requirements that they ask for in the job offer

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I apply for a job in bioinformatics, I always think, I will never be good enough for that job, and I am also afraid that I will not be able to meet the expectations that the boss wants even if I meet the requirements that they ask for in the job offer

That is something your employer/supervisor needs to decide (not you). You need to be truthful about your expertise/experience all along. You may be able to get a job by embellishing your expertise/skills but you will not be able to survive in the long term.

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I understand, thank you. Can I ask you another question? In the field of bioinformatics, is it necessary to do a PhD if you want to grow and have more opportunities? Or can I get it without doing a PhD? I would like to know your opinion, thank you

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There is some good advice in this thread about the need for a PhD and industry : Does a PhD or work experience set you up better to do bioinformatics work in industry? If you have the desire, ability and financial flexibility to do a PhD then you would not go wrong getting one. If you aspire for an academic career then you will certainly need one to become a faculty.

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6 months ago
Joe 21k

Imposter syndrome is good. It means you're self-aware.

You know what you don't know, and you go out of your way to correct that.

You don't get rid of imposter syndrome, you use it.

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You're right, I hadn't thought of it that way. I am aware of what I know and of my limitations. I like to learn, so I always try to improve every day in this field. I think, looking at some posts and comments, that feeling insecure is normal at some point...

Thank you so much for your words!!

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